Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's a trade-off.

In my mind, bedtime should be an easy, orderly affair.   Everyone goes upstairs to put on their pajamas.  They all take turns brushing their teeth.  Everyone gets a drink and finds a stuffed animal to sleep with.  One child picks out the music to play while falling asleep.  Brian prays with them, and I kiss them goodnight, cover them, and go about putting Alaine to bed in a quiet house.  

The fact is that the reality is quite different surprises me almost every night. 

The chaos that is our refrigerator
After dinner last night, our house turned into a rodeo  The kids were horse and rider.  Sometimes the horse was imaginary.  Sometimes the horse was someone else.  There was lots of squealing and hollering and running through the house.  I did a lot of, "Don't you know you aren't supposed to run in here?" and "Please quiet down.  The neighbors might hear you!"  Noise and chaos don't always sit well with me.  I like books stacked neatly  and not scattered on the floor.  I  also like pictures in a row, but I'm learning to leave my refrigerator door alone.

I regress.

So then it was time for bed.  Owen brushed his teeth in 20 seconds flat and Brian had to send him to do it again...twice.  Benjamin pooped in his diaper...for the fourth I had to change him again.  Alaine was rubbing her eyes and trying to fall asleep, but I didn't want to put her to bed because I knew the hoopla would wake her up.  Brian was calling through the house asking whose turn it was to pick music.  Gavin and Owen started swinging for the bunk bed rails, saying that they were monkeys.  Maddie decided she needed a different something to sleep with...and, oh...she had forgotten to get a drink.  Finally, kisses were given and lights turned out.  Alaine had gotten her second wind and wasn't sleepy anymore so I took her downstairs to start the laundry while Brian took a shower.  In the meantime, the boys had a fight over the covers and one yelled, "You're a robber!" to the one who was hogging the blanket.
whispering secrets

It is nights like these that makes me wonder if all my work as a mama is paying off.  Shouldn't these kids that I spend every day shaping, training, and molding be a little more orderly?  Shouldn't they know this routine by now?  Shouldn't they be able to sit still?  Shouldn't they shush when I'm talking?  Shouldn't they settle into bed without a ruckus?

Then I remember earlier in the day when Owen sat in the floor with Alaine, holding her hand and whispering in her ear.  I remember when Gavin and Maddie helped me dry the dishes and then said, "What else do you need, Mama?"  I think about Benjamin bringing Alaine a pile of toys every morning and the rush to the door when Brian comes home every night.  I think of the get well cards that are made every time someone bumps their knee or has a stuffy nose. 

Sometimes obedient and well-trained and loving doesn't always equal quiet and orderly.
Sometimes I need to remember that kids are kids, not little adults.
And sometimes I need a reminder that being neat and quiet takes a back seat to raising Godly people.

Friday, March 25, 2011

To the struggling mama

On the ride home from the hospital when Gavin was two days old, I sat in the backseat with a 9-pound bundle of blue while he cried the whole ten-minute drive home.  He cried all night, too, and he didn't sleep much of the next two weeks.  I had been around babies my whole life and still I felt clueless.  I wondered how anyone ever had more than one child.

Gavin, 4 months old
When Maddie was born not quite twenty months later, things went into higher gear.  I would put her in the swing to take a morning nap while I brushed my teeth in the bathroom.  I would barely get a minty taste in my mouth before I'd hear her wails and run out into the living room to see Gavin standing in front of the swing (or sitting on the swing tray), talking to her and ending our few minutes of quiet.

Being a mom of a 2-year-old and an infant was hard and it was lonely. 

Getting two little children ready to take them anywhere was a huge undertaking.  Zipping coats and pulling on shoes and making sure each one had a fresh diaper took a long time.  A trip to the grocery store was monumental.  I remember one such trip when Maddie was four weeks old.  I put Gavin in the front of the cart and Maddie nestled in the sling.  When we paid and left the store with 2 weeks worth of groceries and 2 mostly-happy children, I felt like Superwoman!  

Our family of 4

When Owen was born, I found out what it means to have a high-needs child.  He only slept in my arms, including naps and nighttime.  He wanted only me to hold him  Occasionally, my mom could hold him, but not Brian.  Even as a tiny baby, he screamed when he was in a group of more than five or six people.  Birthday parties or family dinners were near impossible because he was inconsolable.  Smells bothered him and so did tags in his shirt and colors in his food.

3 kids ages 3 and under
Our family of 5

Being a mama of a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a needy baby was overwhelming and stressful.

And then number four was born...and number five...and suddenly I find myself on the other side of it.  I have women ask me how in the world I do it with five kids when they are barely making it with two.  I don't have an easy answer because I've been where they are.  It really, truly does get easier.

And then there were 4

My kids are 8, 6, 4, 2, and almost 7 months old.  When we go out, one of the olders takes care of getting out coats and shoes for the group and even helping the little ones get ready.  When we cross the street, I don't have to hold five hands.  I only hold Alaine in my arms.  Gavin holds onto Benjamin while  Maddie grabs Owen's hand.

When we ride in the car, some of the kids buckle their own seat belts and they all entertain the baby, singing and playing peek-a-boo.   When we get home, everyone grabs a bag to bring into the house and I'm often left with only Alaine and the keys.

At bathtime, I bathe Alaine.  Benjamin and Owen only need help washing their hair and the oldest two don't need my help at all anymore.  Three of my kids dress themselves and Benjamin knows how to un-dress himself.  (It's a start!)  I change two sets of diapers, but the rest are self-sufficient in the bathroom.  

I cook and get food on the table, but the kids all help fold napkins and place the silverware and plates.  Everyone clears their own plate and they entertain the baby and read to the toddler while I finish with the dishes.  

Our family of 7

In other words, life with five, ages 8 and under, is not the same as having five babies or toddlers.  I still get lonely without adult conversation and the days can still be monotonous and I need His grace everyday to keep my patience.  But the parenting aspect? It isn't so hard and overwhelming anymore.  (Packing everything we own into boxes for our move next month is overwhelming, but taking care of my children is not.)  

So take heart, mama of little ones.  Some day soon you'll find yourself as the mama of bigger ones.   You'll find yourself on the other side, too.  It will get easier.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Love in Action

Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, 
and the servant of all.”

:: : :: : :: : :: : ::

Sweet Shot Day

Monday, March 21, 2011


Did I mention that another of Alaine's nicknames is Owl-laine?  It's hard to remember how it even got started.  Was it because she loved to stay up late when she was a tiny newborn?  Maybe partly.  Was it because her Aunt Kati brought her a stuffed owl souvenir from her summer trip when Alaine was just a week old?  I think maybe.

When I won a bloggy giveaway and chose an owl-y dress for my little owl, I was more than a little happy. New clothing is just plain fun.  

Coincidentally, it was the same giveaway where I gave away a little nest necklace, and all this winning and shopping and admiring the handiwork of another mom finally inspired me to open my own Etsy shop.  I'm making Eggs-in-the-Nest necklaces, inspired by my own little birdies.  My birdies surround me as I make them, too.  Usually, we are all gathered at the school table with the baby at my feet or in my arms.  (Multitasking!) 

When Maddie heard me talking about opening my shop she said, "Mama, is your shop only on the computer?"  I answered yes to which she replied, "Good.  Because if you went to work, I'd have to go to a school building and I want to be home with you." 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Three on Thursday (Again)

I'm always interested in housework, probably because the actual deep cleaning is my least favorite part of keeping our home. Do you clean each room on a given day, clean the whole house on one day, or simply clean as you see things are needing it?
Generally, I clean in shifts.  My basic schedule looks like this:
  • Monday-- vacuum downstairs and change the sheets every other week
  • Tuesday--vacuum upstairs
  • Wednesday--dust
  • Thursday-- clean the bathroom
  • Friday-- do any chore that was missed during the previous days
This is the bare minimum, though.  With five children the floor (especially around the table) needs to be vacuumed more than once a week.  The bathroom mirror needs to be cleaned after almost every tooth brushing.  The kitchen counters needs to be wiped down multiple times a day.  This is just part of life with a big family and I do these little jobs as they come up, regardless of  my cleaning routine.  Rarely do I set out to clean the whole house in one day.  It would be too overwhelming and I like the feeling of small accomplishments each day.

What responsibilities does Brian take on around the house, or do you take care of everything at home?

When Brian is off from work every winter, he takes on far more house chores than I would like him to.  It's not that I don't appreciate his assistance, but I feel that since I am the keeper of our home, he should not have to do my work.  But who am I to argue with someone who wants to help?!

During the ten months of the year that he is at work, we have a groove that we have fallen into.  I handle the laundry, schooling, and meal preparations.  I also handle all of the cleaning except for a portion of the vacuuming.  About every other Sunday, he enjoys doing a thorough vacuuming of the downstairs.  He is able to get into places I don't even attempt to tackle since I usually vacuum with a baby on my hip.   I also try to have all of the dishes caught up when he gets home from work, but he washes the dishes after dinner while the kids and I clear the table and put the food away.  On nights that he works late, I do the dishes myself and I realize what a blessing it is to have him do this every other night.  Taking out the trash is also his thing.  Gavin is getting old enough to take over some of the responsibilities, but since our Dumpster is across the street, the job usually falls on Brian. 

I'd love to hear about your new house. What's it like?

The secret is out!  We are in the process of buying our first home.  I should have mentioned that before now, but it has been quite an emotional and tenuous journey (the subject of another blog post, perhaps?) We are beyond excited to be spreading our wings, both in a metaphorical sense and a more literal sense since our new house sits on a 2-acre lot.  After spending our last six years in a townhouse and sharing a yard with our neighbors, the idea of our own space is exhilarating.  

Our current townhouse is a 3-bedroom with no attic or shed so we've been living out of only two bedrooms and using the smallest bedroom as storage space.  Our new house is a moderately-sized 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, but gaining an extra bedroom and an extra bathroom is going to be a luxury.  We are also looking forward to having a dishwasher. 

These questions were submitted by Allyson.   Leave me your 3 questions in the comments and I'll tackle them another Thursday. 


Monday, March 14, 2011

On Babies and God's Plan For Our Family

asked, "Do you plan on having any more kiddos?"

My answer may not be what you are looking for.  My answer may be rather boring.  My answer is, "I don't know," but this is what I do know:
  • My husband is content with the five children we have.

  • We as a couple have moral and philosophical objections to most forms of birth control.  
  • I believe that we (as a society) act as though the decision to have (or not have) children is solely in our hands.  I know too many women who want to have children but yet cannot, to believe that just because I say I want more children means I can have more children.
  • Should the Lord send another child to our family, He will provide all we need. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Children's Book Monday

A Nest for Celeste
A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home 
written and illustrated by Henry Cole

I know the jist of the saying, but in reality, I find "Don't judge a book by its cover" so silly because as most selective mamas know, a cover can say so much about the inside of a book.  Take this quiet cover. Even the title is delightful, isn't it?  It spoke to me since house hunting has consumed too many months of our family's last two years. Through the discouragements and disappointments, I've come to understand that home is more than the place where we live, more than square footage and number of bedrooms.  But, really, I am ready for a nest to call my own.

The cover also reveals the author.  We love Henry Cole's picture books Trudy and On Meadowview Street and were eager to devour this longer, meatier chapter book.  (Also, penciled onto our calendar is a meet-the-author event with Henry Cole at a local library so reading another of his books became of the utmost importance!)

And the cover illustration sets the tone for the pictures tucked between the pages.  Even Owen (who at age four is still reluctant to commit to chapter books) could get into this one because it was like a super-sized picture book, with pencil sketches framing words on almost every page and even claiming entire double-page spreads. 

Nest For Celeste is the story of a mouse longing for a home where she can feel safe from the rats and cats who roam the large New Orleans plantation where she lives.  In the summer of 1821, she befriends Joseph, the young assistant to John James Audubon.   (Joseph Mason was the real-life teenage helper to Audubon.  He was a talent in his own right and often painted the background foliage in Audubon's works.)

Celeste makes other friends, too, like the osprey she thinks may eat her and the thrush with the beautiful voice whom she dares to rescue.  The book was so chock full of learning that we counted it as nature study when it was too cold to go outside.  We learned about the Pirrie family who owned the Louisiana plantation where Audubon and Joseph lived and worked for four months.  (History?)  We read about the method Audubon used to make his paintings come alive.  (Art study, anyone?) We crammed in chapters at a time while sitting at the school table in the mornings and we slipped in a few more in the evenings after supper.

But truly, we read for the pure joy of this captivating book.   

Visit Kathi's place today for another read-aloud.  
And won't you consider joining Elise at her quiet spot for a new book idea each Monday? 

Friday, March 11, 2011

In Reality

I talk a lot about all the reading I do with my kids and I wonder if I've given the wrong impression.  I wonder if I've painted a rosy picture in your mind of a quiet home with all of us gathered on the couch where we read for hours without interruption because we all love it so much. 

In reality, reading time is often chaotic.  It often involves a tussle over who sits where or a complaint about the book someone else has chosen.  The phone rings.  The dinner bell buzzes.  Gavin stops me every few sentences to ask a question.  I'm convinced my kids will always associate Abraham Lincoln with noise because Alaine cried through the whole (albeit short) biography we read.    

Noise and enthusiasm is part of this season we're in.  Interruptions are, too, and I'm trying to be okay with that.

It's all just a part of life.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three (More) on Thursday

Who does the grocery shopping? (Brian does ours and I feel un-Proverbs 31-like because of it.)   

Well, my Brian does ours, too, and I often have the same feelings.  I hear of other women going to the grocery store with their whole brood in tow and I wonder if maybe I should  or could do the same.  However, this is what we've chosen and for now, this works for us.  I do all the meal planning and the list making.  He does all the shopping and bringing it in the house.  We both put it away, I do all the cooking, and the whole family does the eating! 

How much TV is too much (for the kids), and what do you feel is actually worthy of watching? (I feel like mine are watching waaay more lately...but we're also reading, both independently and aloud, waaay more than we used to)!   

Tough question because I am constantly torn about this myself.  I do not have a  set TV limit, but we are certainly not a household that has the TV on all day.  We read lots of books, spend time outside, color reams of pictures, do some crafts, build Legos, and play pretend with paper dolls.  Because I know my children are physically and mentally active, I do allow a little down time in front of the television.  Of course, when they are sick I allow a little (a lot?!) more and when it is warm and sunny day, I allow a lot less.  Each day has its own set of circumstances. 

As far as what they watch, I think we fall on the conservative side.  My kids watch nothing straight from the television except PBS Kids, and their DVDs are carefully chosen.  One of my children is very sensitive to what he sees and hears and has suffered nightmares from seemingly innocuous selections. 

How in the world do you wean a nursing baby? I mean, seriously, I'm clueless!   

This is probably too big of a topic to tackle in one small paragraph, but I'll give my short answer.  I've fairly successfully night-weaned my children at around 18 months, but I've never done much in the way of initiating day-weaning because it just sort of happened.  Gavin nursed the longest (longer than most people feel comfortable knowing about), but he outgrew it eventually.  (I "outgrew" it long before he was ready.)  The other three weaned when I was pregnant with the  next baby.  Whether it was the taste of the milk or the quantity of the milk or whether they sensed my reluctance to continue or whether they would have naturally weaned around that time anyway, I'll never know. Of course, they didn't just go from ten times a day to none.  It was gradual, gradual reduction.  There will be a day when you think that it is never going to happen...and then before you know it, it has.

These questions were submitted by Kathi.   Leave me your 3 questions in the comments and I'll tackle them another Thursday. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Until The Fog Clears

It was one of those Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde weekends.  We spent all day Saturday out of the house, calling it our Adventure Day.  We even dared to skip naps in the name of fun.  But on Sunday morning, Maddie woke up sick and by the afternoon, Owen was down with it, too.  The fevers and belly aches look to be seeping into our Monday as well. 

I want to share a book delight from the past week for Children's Book Monday, but that will have to wait until all are well and my brain can think.  In the spare corners of the day yesterday, I overhauled my blog categories, in an effort to make it easier to browse my archives.  Scroll to the bottom of my page where I've hidden my word cloud ("Words Fitly Spoken")...and click away. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Revisiting Our Schedule

said:   I'm always curious about other stay-at-home mom's schedules. For example, do you clean the house, do laundry, run errands, etc. on set days? Also, what routines as far as morning, school time, afternoon, dinner, etc. work for your family?

Last year I wrote a long post about our schedule and the ins and outs of our daily routine. Because I am a overly structured person who resists change, life is similar to what it was then, only we have five kids in the mix instead of four.  I still do laundry every day and keep a general cleaning schedule (sheets every other Monday, upstairs vacuuming on Tuesday, bathroom on Thursday, etc.).  We still do school in the morning and attempt to have a quiet afternoon.  A few things have changed, though, and that is what I will share here.  

First of all, Alaine is the first baby I've had who has given me the luxury of having a flexible schedule.  My other babies napped best in my arms or with me by their sides, but Alaine thrives on being put to bed in her own bed.  She frequently takes two to three hour naps (though we are going through a resistant spell) so if we have errands to run in the morning or something disrupts our schedule, we have a chunk of time in the afternoon to fall back on. 

Because of this, our mornings are not so "powerful."  My goal in years past was to pack everything  (school, laundry, a small cleaning project, beginning dinner preparations) into the morning hours so that the afternoon was free for rest and holding napping babies.  Now, I am able to save a few things for the afternoon.  Sometimes I miss the respite of an empty afternoon, but I do love that my mornings aren't quite so full.  I am especially thankful  for this flexibility on mornings when we have to be out of the house.  With our old routine, this was mentally taxing because all I could think of while we were out was how I was going to get my morning work done when I wasn't there to do it.  

We are also toying with the idea of changing our children's bedtime routine slightly.  The older two children (ages 8 and 6) are outgrowing their eight o'clock bedtime, but the little ones still need it.  In fact, often they need to go to sleep even earlier, but since all except Alaine share a bedroom, it is not convenient to have two separate  bedtimes.  (Any suggestions?)    

As always, many days I feel like I am floundering.  Brian went back to work last Monday after thirteen weeks (!) off and I am readjusting my mind to this new-ish routine of handing it all alone during the day.  Super mom, I am not, but with His strength, we live and breathe

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A follow-up

Kathi asked about  Gavin's copywork folder and specifically what scriptures I chose to include.  When I sat down to compile the papers, I did a Google search for "copywork for boys," looking specifically for "boy" scriptures. I wasn't overly enthused by what I found.  I eventually concluded that scripture is neither masculine nor feminine and that "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."  That being said, I chose verses that Gavin has already hidden in his heart or that I thought would speak to him.  

I included Psalm 1 which we are memorizing in school this term.  The chapter has six verses, but he is only required to copy one per day.  The purpose is to work diligently, not become overwhelmed.  He does his better work when he feels the goal is attainable.

I included Phillipians 2:14 ("Do everything without complaining or arguing.") because it is a verse we discuss all. the. time.  in many contexts.  

I included John 3:16 because it is such a key verse to our faith. 

And I included I Corinthians 13:4-5 because, though he is at the age where love and mushy stuff seems a bit gross, everyone (girl and boy) needs to know true love. 

Three on Thursday

What's your favorite thing to do? 
I could never narrow this down to one thing because I am always in the middle of multiple things at once.  I am guilty of starting too many sewing projects and scrambling to get them all done.  I'm guilty of starting more than one book at a time and leaving them in various rooms of the house, reading a chapter here and there until I finish each one.  I'm guilty of having a string of blog posts or ideas started and be excited about them all at once.  I bake and watch movies and write letters and I enjoy it all.  As long as I'm at home with my little family, I'm content.

Coffee or Tea? If I had to choose, it would be tea because I don't like coffee at all, but I'm really more of a hot chocolate girl.  In the summer, it is Coke!  Most of the time, though, I'm good and just drink water.

Dream vacation?  In all seriousness, I don't care where we go as long as someone packs for me.  It is too much pressure to decide who needs what and how many.  We took a vacation one year in early summer.  Brian said we should all pack jackets and I said, "In June?  That's just another thing to take up room in the suitcase."  So he packed a jacket  and the rest of us packed T-shirts. And you know what? When we got to our destination, it was 65 degrees and cloudy and we had to go to K-Mart and buy everyone long sleeve shirts. 

These questions were submitted by Carrie.   Leave me your 3 questions in the comments and I'll tackle them another Thursday. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


We call her Laine Claire or Lainey or Claire Bear or just plain Alaine
...but we think our Alaine is anything but plain and ordinary. 

From her dark brown hair to her pucker-y lips to her toothless grin and big dimple, we can't get enough.   

Happy half-year!

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